In Our Time: Bohemianism

Bohemianism meant a life lived for art, it meant sexual liberation and freedom from social constraint, but it also meant dodging the landlord and burning your poems to stay warm. How did the garret-philosophy of the Parisian Latin Quarter take over the drawing rooms of Bloomsbury and Chelsea, and why did a French war with necessity emerge as a British life-style as art?

Here‘s a nice Radio 4 documentary about Bohemianism; the subject of our pending fifth issue. Given that this was last broadcast in 2003, I am amazed that it’s available to listen to online. Thanks, BBC.

Just Right

If something takes a physical form, it must fill a need. These needs can be emotional needs or the needs of day-to-day life. I need a broom to sweep my apartment, but I also need that painting by my friend Pete on my wall because it reminds me of my friends in Chicago and also what it was like when I was first setting up my design practice. When we choose to have physical objects in our life, we need to make sure the need is real.

Graphic designer, Frank Chimero has a great take on minimalism, or, as he sees it, ‘just-right-ism’.

Most perceptively, he writes (as we often do at New Escapologist) that the real end of minimalism (or just-right-ism) is freedom:

Fundamentally, I think the satisfactory outcome for all of this is freedom, meaning the ability to say both yes and no. I think often times we cast freedom as merely the ability to say yes to the things we want, but let’s face it: it’s usually easy to exercise that freedom if you’re a lucky citizen of a modernized country. We’re a culture prone to indulgence, and usually the times we deny ourselves the freedom of doing or having the things or experiences we want are the instances that courage is required to commit. These would be things like quitting your job and starting your own business, or booking a 3 week romp in southeast Asia. That courage is something that Appropriatism, or any other mode of thinking, can’t give you. One just needs to summon it in themselves.

What I mean by freedom is the ability to say no. I don’t consider this a negative way of thinking, but rather a very positive way to have permission to opt out of the things we don’t want to do. I feel we need to acknowledge the value of the freedom derived from simplifying and eliminating the useless things in our life. This means having an understanding of what’s important.

The whole article is here and is well worth a read.

Thanks, Neil, for the link.

An Escapologist’s Diary. Part 22.

It’s been a busy month for this Escapologist. Can’t help feeling that life would have been less exhausting if I’d kept my job. Of course, it wouldn’t have been half as fun, as this diary entry will hopefully show.

When my partner and I first met, she half-jokingly told me that her life’s ambition was to pet a penguin. Romantic idiot that I am, I’ve been looking for penguin-petting opportunities ever since.

It seems to be a fairly popular ambition, but difficult to achieve. Most wildlife sanctuaries forbid it. The little zoo in my home town of Dudley wouldn’t make an exception and a zoo in Edinburgh, famous for a pretty undignified ‘penguin parade’, would not permit it either. In fact, there are probably only two or three places in the world – short of visiting Antarctica – that allow laypeople to handle the proud flightless birds.

A behind-the-scenes research centre at Florida’s Sea World theme park extends a rare opportunity to meet penguins. When we went to Florida this month, ostensibly for a family wedding, I was able to arrange the long-anticipated penguin encounter as a special treat.

The King Penguin we met was a very regal little bird but didn’t seem to mind being touched by humans at all. He was also a very solid and muscular fellow. I hadn’t anticipated how soft and feathery he would be either: I’d imagined his texture would be ‘fatty’, like a wet suit or certain types of fish. It goes to show that you have to experience these things to know. Later, I also had the privilege of meeting a puffin.

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Tom Mellors on Free Will

This is a guest post by New Escapologist contributor, Tom Mellors.

In a recent article in the Independent entitled “The uncomfortable truth about mind control: Is free will simply a myth?”, Michael Mosley argued that, although we don’t like to admit it, the notion that humans have free will is a delusion.

Mosley cites the work of psychologist Stanley Milgram to back up his argument. Milgram is famous for a controversial experiment in which volunteers were enlisted to take part in a “memory and learning experiment”. According to Mosley, Milgram wrote that the experiment was intended to answer the question: “How is possible, I ask myself, that ordinary people who are courteous and decent in everyday life could act callously, inhumanely, without any limitations of conscience.”
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Books of 2010

For want of a better place to record this, here are the books I read in 2010.

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